Evaluation of Forward Osmosis Spacer Performance for Produced Water Treatment

  • Jawad AlQattan

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Forward osmosis (FO) is one of the emerging membrane technologies in a field of water treatment. The potential advantages of a FO process are lower energy consumption, and higher fouling reversibility compared to other membrane-based desalting technologies, e.g., reverse osmosis and nanofiltration, due to low working pressure. Despite high fouling reversibility, membrane fouling can be still a major obstacle in the FO process. Thus, the employment of spacers can help in enhancing water flux and minimizing membrane fouling. However, the current design of spacers has a potential problem related to spacer fouling, thereby deteriorating the FO process. Therefore, the spacers were examined with the different designs (i.e., hole-type and twisted spacers) fabricated via a 3D-printer for the treatment of shale gas produced water (SGPW). To evaluate the performance of the spacers, either synthetic SGPW or Milli-Q water as feed solution (FS) and different concentration of sodium chloride as a draw solution (DS) were employed. Water flux, reverse solute flux (RSF) and reverse solute flux selectivity (RSFS) were firstly measured with increasing DS concentration with Milli-Q water as FS and a 1-hole spacer exhibited the highest water flux. When increasing FS concentration to 0.3 M NaCl, hole-type spacers exhibited higher water flux than twisted spacers. Therefore, 0-hole and hole-type spacers were selected for SGPW treatment. During SGPW treatment, severe flux decline was observed with all experiments due to the formation of BaSO4 scaling. Flux decline of 1- hole spacers was slightly severer than 0-hole. This might be because scales were broken by high shear force and more covered the membrane surface as shown in SEM images. However, interestingly, hole-type spacers showed no change of pressure drop during SGPW treatment while the pressure drop of the 0-hole spacer increased. Holes of spacers can prevent the accumulation of foulants on the spacer surface, thereby resulting in no change of pressure drop. Physical cleaning with no spacer and the 0-hole spacer showed less than 95% cleaning efficiency while hole-type spacers could enhance the cleaning efficiency and achieve 100%. This might be because the micro-jet induced by holes of the spacer can more readily destroy and remove foulants on the surface.
Date of AwardApr 2019
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorNorEddine Ghaffour (Supervisor)


  • Forward Osmosis
  • Spacers
  • Produced water

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